I'm standing in line at the 24-hour grocery because the chain of events that was my day of instructing finally came to an end at 11:30 PM. I'm standing in line at midnight in the grocery because, before I get home, I needed to buy some fruit and yogurt for breakfast tomorrow. I'm at the grocery tonight because I need to be at the airport by 8 AM tomorrow.
Today I've come close to the maximum 8 hours of flight instruction allowed in the last 24 hours. The fatigue has combined with the grocery scene to put me in an altered state. The garish fluorescent lighting provides the visuals and the weird Kenny G.-inspired muzak the unsettling soundtrack. Lost souls who, for whatever reason, must do their shopping at the witching hour are slinking through the aisles and I am one of them. Somehow I manage to quickly gather my items and find the check-out line.
Trying to keep my humanity in the face of all this, I notice the gentleman behind me has only one item - a bottle of red wine. So I tell him "Why don't you go first?" He thanks me, adding he's driven all the way from Las Vegas and just needed a glass of wine to help him unwind so he could sleep. A jazzy version of "Brazil" is now filtering down on us from above.
I'm tired, but it's been a rewarding day because each of the four pilots I flew with today, in one way or another, rose to their particular challenge. Moderate turbulence, gusty crosswind landing, partial panel holding pattern, night circling approach, deftly handling a strained interaction with a bitchy controller. It's a rush when a pilot faces a challenge and stays focused, even though they may feel shaken up inside. And when they succeed, even in a small way, it's a rush for me, too. So I listen to "Brazil," singing the lyrics in my head, as I wait my turn and wonder if I'll be able to sleep.